Passarelli hosting TV program
Harriet Passarelli interviewing musicians Seals and Crofts on set of Midday, daily, live talk show, WVEC-TV (ABC), Norfolk, VA

Former WOUB Student Leads the Way for Women in Broadcasting

Posted on:

< < Back to

Harriet Passarelli was one of the first women to anchor the evening news in North Carolina

ATHENS, OH – For Harriet Passarelli, WOUB was her pathway to becoming a pioneer. The radio and television major at Ohio University came to Athens in the late 1960s from New Jersey and started working at WOUB almost immediately. She originally thought she wanted to be a disc jockey but got involved in the WOUB newsroom and learned that she really liked news. Passarelli also learned that there were not many other women pursuing news as a career.

“There just weren’t many women in the radio and television or journalism majors,” said Passarelli. “There weren’t many women disc jockeys or news reporters, but I didn’t let that stop me.”

Passarelli when she was a student at WOUB
Passarelli playing on the WOUB 91.3 softball team when she was a student at Ohio University in the late 1960s

Passarelli got a paid student position at WOUB as a continuity director and truly enjoyed working at the station. She hosted two radio shows at WOUB, a Saturday night jazz show called Jazz Tonight and a morning talk/music show called Potpourri.

“The jazz show was a lot of fun,” said Passarelli laughing. “You just put on a sultry voice and dimmed the lights.”

Passarelli also worked on the television side of WOUB. She did mostly production work, running studio camera and working behind the scenes.

“I graduated in 1971 with all of the great broadcast experience, but my career went in a different direction for a time,” said Passarelli. “I was on speech team in college, and we won nationals in public speaking during my senior year. The head of the debate team at University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill sat in on the final round and offered me a teaching assistantship, which I accepted. But after finishing graduate school at UNC, I still wanted to be in broadcasting.”

Harriett and family
Passarelli today with her family: husband – Ed and sons – Ricky and Eddie.

Passarelli started visiting TV stations in North Carolina to apply for news jobs and one day found herself in the right place at the right time.

“I stopped by the NBC TV affiliate in Raleigh/Durham and one of the anchormen had just quit,” said Passarelli. “The NBC network had just been sued for not hiring enough women and minorities, and I was pretty much hired on the spot to be the weather girl. During my time there, I ended up being one of the first woman in North Carolina to co-anchor the evening news. I was the only woman at the station except for the receptionist.”

During her broadcasting career, Passarelli also worked in New Jersey and Virginia. She retired after working for 30 years in the industry.

“In everything I have done, I’ve always tried to use the skills I learned at Ohio University and WOUB,” said Passarelli. “I really felt we got very intense training in every aspect of broadcasting and journalism. We got the chance to try and fail sometimes, and many of the students I worked with at WOUB went on to do great things. When I travel, I turn on the TV and there’s always somebody I knew from school. There were so many success stories because we got such a great education.”